In addition to making calls, cell phones can do a lot these days: They take pictures, shoot video, send text messages, download web pages and program your TiVo. But the phones in this badly acted, by-the-numbers remake of the Takashi Miike's scary ONE MISSED CALL/CHAKUSIN ARI (2003) come with an extra feature not too many people would want: They leave plan members voicemail recordings of their own violent deaths days before they occur, along with the exact date and time of big event.
University student Shelley (Meagan Good), who also interns at St. Luke's hospital, has gotten one such "missed call" message, in which a voice sounding very much like her own gasps its final breaths. Shelley's friend Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon) assures her the message is just a prank, but Beth has second thoughts when Shelley is found drowned in her own koi pond. Beth's suspicions about Shelley's death are further confirmed when their mutual friend, Leann (Azura Skye), receives a similar message -- the missed calls are announced by a creepy, childlike ringtone -- apparently sent from Shelley's phone. On the recording, Leann can hear herself screaming in terror; even stranger, the date and time stamp on the message is still three days away. When that exact moment arrives, Leann falls from a railway overpass and is mangled by an oncoming train right in front of Beth. When a third mutual friend (Johnny Lewis) dies a horrible death after receiving a message from Leann's phone, Beth begins to see the pattern: The cell phone number of each victim could be found in the previous victim's address book, and all were found with red hard candies in their mouths. The police think Beth's crazy, but the detail about the candy catches the attention of Detective Jack Andrews (Ed Burns) who has just pulled the same kind of sour ball from the mouth of his dead sister, Jean, whose body had been found in the wilderness by a group of hikers after she'd been missing for a week. Jean knew Shelley from St. Luke's, but before Beth can follow the trail of death back to the now-closed hospital where five people recently died in a fire, she, too gets the call she's been dreading.
French director Eric Valette's only innovation lies in dubiously adding asthma inhalers to the list of Japanese horror tropes that now recur with numbing predictability: enormous millipedes, ghostly apparitions, primal traumas, child abuse and deadly curses involving technologies we've come to depend upon (Valette and novelist-turned-screenwriter Andrew Klavan thankfully forgo long-haired ghosts). He also put a number of good old American cliches to work, like those palsied specters whose heads shake a la the demons in JACOB'S LADDER, and the university professor who conveniently spells out the movie's theme in a first-act university lecture. The result is yet another tired, ultimately incoherent horror movie that undoes the promise of its pretty good premise and potentially interesting story structure with dull scares, sloppy ending and a pair of unconvincing, leaden lead performances. leave a comment --Ken Fox